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Trump talks of God, but acts of evil

Brandishing a Bible in his right hand the President of the United States of America stood in front of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

What was the symbolism of this act that has so bewildered Americans of faith, both black and white?

He had cut a pathway for his entry with teargas and rubber bullets.

That this nation, which was founded on the annihilation of one race and the enslavement of another should then claim that God was on their side is a mystery to me.

Since its founding the state, with the blessing of the church, has sought to disturb the daily lives of its black people and inflict violence upon them.

It then, with God on its side, declares the authority of the American Empire and those with white male flesh.

Was this the metaphor Trump was using? Was it that he believed he had God on his side despite the extraordinary reaction to the murder of George Floyd?

Was the Bible, upside down and back to front, just a prop, and was he really speaking to every Christian on the religious right saying God is on my side? (In other words, ‘I want your vote’).

An aside before I move on:

Upon hearing some improved job figures last Friday President Trump said

“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying there’s a great thing happening for our country. It’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.”

The man is crazy.

But let’s put that aside for a moment while I fill you in on some reactions to George Floyd’s death.

The Episcopal bishop of Washington Mariann Edgar Budde, who oversees the church Trump visited, told the Washington Post that she was “outraged” over the president’s conduct.

“I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop …”

Robert Hendrickson, Rector at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona said:

“This is an awful man, waving a book he hasn’t read, in front of a church he doesn’t attend, invoking laws he doesn’t understand, against fellow Americans he sees as enemies, wielding a military he dodged serving, to protect power he gained via accepting foreign interference, exploiting fear and anger he loves to stoke, after failing to address a pandemic he was warned about, and building it all on a bed of constant lies and childish inanity.”

While the Rev. William H. Lamar IV the pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. had this to say:

“Trump’s contrived excursion from the Rose Garden to St. John’s Episcopal Church, was then, far more than a photo op: It was the latest in a long line of acts that wed the church to the state in ways that evidence the conundrum of faith that has always been present, but is now more pronounced. When Trump dislocated the protesters from Lafayette Square, he actually cleared them from a space designed to commemorate the violence and victory of the Revolutionary War; he stood in front of a church whose history is rife with complicity in such settler colonial violence. Episcopal Bishops Michael Curry and Mariann Budde rightly decried his actions, but there are no clean hands in our faith.”

The story of Jesus has been so dismantled by the evangelical right that it bears little resemblance to the one of the Bible. He was, in essence, the world’s first socialist. A revolutionary hunted by his adversaries. He unashamedly acted in the service of people and personal fulfilment.

History shows that during the civil rights movement white evangelicals – rather than supporting their black brothers and sisters – actually opposed Martin Luther King Jnr.

Billy Graham was of the view that racial harmony would only be achieved if the nation turned to God.

The phrase “born again” came into being in the 1970s, as did the “opposition to abortion and the rise of the Moral Majority.” They sought not only moral but political power and Ronald Reagan was to be the avenue by which they obtained it.

It’s unsurprising that:

“White evangelical support for Donald Trump is still at 73 percent, and more than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for him in 2016.”

Was this terrible Bible-raising stunt – carried out in the most despicable circumstances – a wake up call to the evangelicals?

All through this sordid act of political pandering to the far-right of his base Trump would have been asking himself just how he could exploit this tragedy for his own political gain.

As has been shown, violence is a personality trait of the President. His overriding concern since the beginning of the pandemic, for example, has been one of self-interest.

You can almost see the words going around in his head:

“I can use this tragedy to fire up those of my base who are the most racist and violent.”

Trump’s first reaction to a problem is always violence. Recall these threats:

Trump is without doubt suffers from malignant narcissism, a term:

“The social psychologist Erich Fromm first coined the term “malignant narcissism” in 1964, describing it as a “severe mental sickness” representing “the quintessence of evil”.

He characterised the condition as:

“… the most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.”

It is too noted that:

“Edith Weigert (1967) saw malignant narcissism as a “regressive escape from frustration by distortion and denial of reality”, while Herbert Rosenfeld (1971) described it as “a disturbing form of narcissistic personality where grandiosity is built around aggression and the destructive aspects of the self become idealized.”

When you read these two characterisations, who comes to mind? The President of the United States, of course. And the reason he was holding a Bible is apparent. It was to remind the evangelicals that God was on his side … their side.

I believe that a commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, is the best way of providing solutions to human problems. That does not however mean that faith doesn’t have a place.

The thing though is that in holding up the book as though it were a prop in a bad play is that he exposed himself for what he is. A charlatan. When asked, he couldn’t quote a single verse of scripture.

We know very little, if anything, of the role Christianity has played in his upbringing and adult life.

We know that he was raised as a Presbyterian and has cited the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, a pastor and the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” as one of his earliest influences. I still have that book in my library and it is more about motivation than spirituality.

I am often staggered with the vigour American atheists use to confront religion. However when one examines the conduct of religious institutions in that country I cannot say I am the least surprised.

He is on the record as saying he attends church at Christmas and Easter, and rather conveniently says the Bible is one of his favourite books.

Other than that, little is known. Perhaps because there is little to know.

Conversely the man who died, not only read his Bible, but lived by it.

Reverend Dr Michael Jensen rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Darling Point, Sydney puts this perspective:

“The Bible holds up a mirror to human nature and human society. It tells us (as if we needed telling right now) that all is not well. And one of its chief targets is political and religious hypocrisy. To display religious piety while ignoring the poor and the oppressed is the worst of sins, biblically speaking. Jesus was especially critical of exactly this.”

My purpose in quoting Michael Jensen is not to assist Christianity in its teaching but simply to highlight what happens when either religion or politics highjacks the other.

Or worse still. how toxic it becomes when you toss into the recipe a narcissistic power hungry fool like Trump.

My thought for the day

I have come to the conclusion that one of the truly bad effects religion (any religion) has on people is that it teaches that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.

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  1. Ken

    Another good article John. Keep it up.

  2. Andrew Smith

    More disturbing than Trump, who maybe be a terrible manifestation, is the Christian nationalism in the US and elsewhere, according to Catherine Stewart in Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism:

    ‘For too long the Religious Right has masqueraded as a social movement preoccupied with a number of cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. But in her deeply reported investigation, Katherine Stewart reveals a disturbing truth: America’s Religious Right has evolved into a Christian nationalist movement. It seeks to gain political power and impose its vision on society. It isn’t fighting a culture war; it is waging a political war on the norms and institutions of American democracy.’

    One of its key strategies has been prayer groups in politics….


    Meanwhile in Canberra we have https://nationalprayerbreakfast.org/gallery-2/ (which featured Hillsong for music in 2011).

    It has been highlighted how Canberra MPs have significantly higher rates of Christian belief and practice vs. the general population (maybe not older and especially regional voters?), which also crosses over to journalists and media.

    Fits into radical right libertarian electoral tactics in encouraging beliefs or the heart over facts or the head….

  3. Keitha Granville

    Excellent piece JL. I especially like your characterisation of Christ as a socialist. I am fond of reminding religious nutters that Christ was a disenchanted Jew. He railed against the hierarchy of his faith. He wasn’t a Christian. That came later when his thoughts and ideas and philosophies were hijacked by exactly the thing he was railing against.

    Church and State, a marriage made in hell.

  4. Henry Rodrigues

    Trump is just the figurehead and representative of the rabid ‘christian’ fundamentalists, the crooked bankers and big business, the racists, the ratbags of the far right, the smug ‘middle class, who care nothing about civil rights but more about their ‘god given’ right to accumulate as much money and property. Trump is nothing if they didn’t support him. His character and his past history should be enough to disqualify him from any public office including that of neighbourhood dogcatcher, yet there he is, granting huge favours to his friends and his disgusting family. And Mitch McConnell and Lindsay greaseball Graham and the rest of the cowards in the republican party, lining up behind him as if he was the messiah himself.

    What a country !!!!!!

  5. Terence Mills

    It seems that the Vatican is coming out in favour of Trump as they were alleged to have done in 2016.

    Former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano on Sunday 7 June 2020 published an open letter to President Donald Trump evidently expressing the Vatican’s support for his re-election. Among other things the Rome based Archbishop said :

    In recent months we have been witnessing the formation of two opposing sides that I would call Biblical: the children of light and the children of darkness. The children of light constitute the most conspicuous part of humanity, while the children of darkness represent an absolute minority. And yet the former are the object of a sort of discrimination which places them in a situation of moral inferiority with respect to their adversaries, who often hold strategic positions in government, in politics, in the economy and in the media. In an apparently inexplicable way, the good are held hostage by the wicked and by those who help them either out of self-interest or fearfulness.

    The full letter is here : https://www.catholic.org/news/hf/family/story.php?id=84789

    There are seventy million registered Catholics in the United States (22% of the US population). Whatever happens in Australia we must ensure that we remain a secular state and keep religion out of our politics : if it isn’t already too late.

  6. Michael Faulkner

    An important article John, and thank you for your research putting it together.
    ‘ Malignant narcissist ‘ sums Trump up pretty well.

  7. mark delmege

    of course much of the state violence was perpetrated by state cops from states led by democrats. conflating is all the rage these days and best exemplified by the low brow shameful and dishonest media watch last night…

  8. Bert

    For my 2 cents worth….most religions should be called out as terrorist organisations. The amount of wars and the suffering caused by religions of many types are beyond the pale

  9. Brandane

    When pressed Trump recalled only one passage from the Bible.
    An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

  10. Jack Cade

    Since we are told – before we are 7 years old – that ‘God’ creates everything, controls everything, foresees everything, then it’s all running to his plan and humans believing that if they CHOOSE to be good they’ll go to heaven is rubbish.
    Happily, at the age of 7 or thereabouts I realised that there was no such thing as Jesus and on the balance of probabilities there was no God.
    When I was about 9 or so I watched a street meeting for the Conservative candidate for my slum area of Liverpool (West Derby or something). That man was called Sir David Maxwell-Fyffe, and I could tell, child though I was, that this man despised us, although he was pretending not to. He was evidently a brilliant lawyer, but a Berkeley Hunt. Became the country’s premier law officer under Churchill, I think.
    I have no idea what my parents politics were; honestly. Working class people are very conservative socially, and me dad was a proddy and me mam a catholic. I’d guess they voted along religious lines, which I already knew was shite. So my politics came to me via Sir David Maxwell-Fyffe…He didn’t like what I was, and I didn’t like what he was.
    I think his family sold bananas.

  11. andy56

    Trump didnt even open the book. Insiders say he never reads. So apart from what he may have been taught as a young boy at school, its hardly surprising he has no idea of the contents. But thats just a side issue. His real focus is the votes the evangelicals bring to the table. If 36% say he is doing a good job, you can safely say 30% of americans are dumb as dog shit. What proportion of these dogshiteaters are evangelical?
    Why do evangelicals vote for trump? Its the foot in the door to their ambitions. Forget about abortion and rights and stuff. Thats just another side issue. Trump has never had a mistress have an abortion? Trump says 100,000 dead is a good job? All the things christ would have torched him for is forgiven if he brings them power.

  12. Brozza

    How ironic.
    One hypocrite holding up the manual for another bunch of hypocrites.
    Remember the Inquisition, hiding and protecting all the ‘kiddy fiddlers’, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, ………………..

  13. Jack Cade


    And smuggling many of Hitlers most evil followers to the Americas – some say Hitler himself- …good ole Opus Dei.

  14. Alc

    Good stuff John. The statement from the Rector of the church in Tucson sums up Trump exactly. Joe Bageant who wrote “ Deer Hunting with Jesus” said on one of his many visits to Oz. “ we got the puritans, you got the convicts, how lucky were you.” Clive James, “ religion is an advertising medium for a product that does not exist.”

  15. Phil

    Ah religion. Jesus booked into a hotel threw three nails on the counter and said. ‘ Can you put me up for the night ‘ 2020 and people still believe in this fairy story. The mind boggles.

  16. ajogrady

    Religion is a crutch for those who cannot stand by themselves and is used as a cloak worn by those to hide there evil ways and corrupt behavior.
    Off subject and a question: Is the Con19 virus pandemic a con and is it the new ” terrorist threat” that keeps the masses in fear and controlled just as the threat of terrorism does. The terrorist threat was the new tool of fear and loathing after the fall of the wall and the dismantling of the USSR which nullified the fear of communism that had been used so effectively by the rightwing of politicd for many many years. This left a void that the rightwing of politics could not utilise to their advantage, fear! In the void of NO fear and loathing the left side of politics managed to get some momentum and wins around the world. The right side of politics was losing momentum and power and needed a new weapon of fear and loathing to be used to their political advantage. Then the events of 9/11 occurred and instantly fear and loathing was back and the old politics 101 of divide and conquer was being effectively used. Terrorism has served the right well but people have become immune to its fear factor. Now we have a virus that is effective in two ways. 1. It keeps people controlled and in fear and 2. An opportunity to loath China. This flies in the face of progress China has made in many btinging hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty whilst countries like Australia, America and Britain have managed to send many millions of their people into poverty.
    So the question is: Is Covid19 the new weapon of fear and loathing for the right side of politics?

  17. ajogrady

    If there is a battle between good and evil then the evidence surely points to evil is winning.

  18. Jack sprat

    Trump is a modern day Emporer Constantine , embraces Christianity for solely political advantage .If the majority of evangelical republican voters where in the KKK he would have been holding a burning cross outside of that church the other day .Constantine murdered thousands including family members (his eldest son and wife ) and in spite of this is revered as a saint by both the catholic and orthodox churches .

  19. New England Cocky

    @JL: Trumpery (COD; n, showy but worthless) is POTUS (Probably Only Truly Useless Slimebag) of the USA (United States of Apartheid). Why can’t we correctly label these political features in the media?

    As for Dr Michael Jensen, ensconced in the Darling Point sinecure, a member of the Jensen clan of ratbag Anglicans seeking to sell off all Anglican real property in Sydney, having lost about $200 MILLION of Anglican Property trust funds in poor property investments, the less said the better.

    @Brozza & Jack Cade: Watch SBS next Sunday night 160620 at 1930 hours for the series finale on “Hunting Hitler”. It has been interesting for a student of German and Nazi history, and asks many questions that conventional historians would prefer remained unanswered. Also check out Fredrick Forsythe, “The SS File” that documents the escape of key Nazi figures to South America assisted by the Roman Catholic Church.

  20. DrakeN

    Religions are the longest surviving, most successful of all the confidence tricks ever inflicted on humanity.

    They exist solely for the gaining and maintaining of wealth and power at the expense of the laity.

    Religions are politics and politics religions.

  21. Andrew Smith

    The Christian nationalists using Trump via the GOP and democracy use issues such as abortion (which was less significant in the past) to break down denominational separation for greater support (while fewer people in the US claiming Christian beliefs) e.g. targeting Latinos on abortion whether Catholic or Evangelical.

    There is absolutely no love lost between Pope Francis and Trump or white Christian nationalists who pine for Pope John Paul while leveraging those Americans of Italian and Irish Catholic heritage.


    There are transnational narratives revolving round characters like Bannon and white nationalists worshipping white Christian conservative culture (or radical insurgencies) between the US, Italy, South America, Central Europe and Australia (UK has avoided somewhat due to strong secular traditions). In our case we see some 9Fairfax and too many NewsCorp ‘journalists’ displayjng antipathy through to outrage regarding immigrants, climate change, Europe/EU, Islam, Pope Francis and Angela Merkel.

  22. Mark Shields

    We really need to be addressing Religious zealotry from hereon: The rise of religious beliefs having more value than scientific evidence is this planet’s biggest threat! Eschatological Dispensationalism is rife in the Judeo/Christian/Islamic doctrines, and Cognitive Closure is the current method of dealing with all such anomalous human disturbances.

  23. Brozza

    N.E.Cocky – already knew about the vatican’s support for the Nazi regime and Mussolini, much the same as kiddy fiddlers in their fold.
    It was all about power and their reputation. They probably expected Fascism to win WW2 and were hedging their bets.
    For the vatican, it’s always been about power first and foremost, religion was just the iron rod used to wield it.

  24. Phil Pryor

    Filth in human society and politics will unite under pressure, so, Trump may cobble up a coalition of fraud, fantasy, filth, with some chance of Putin, Joris the Bonker, Bolsonaro, the mafia, the papacy, the military, the corrupt, the corporate coprophagics, the dummo dickbrain southerners, the disgruntlted idiots, Farage, superstionshitskulled conservative bastardry world wide… How to stay in the saddle of exploitation, abuse, crime, slavery, serfdom, planet abuse, environment smashing, all manner of sin and iniquity. Peace…money…preferment…topdoggery…control…supremacy…ADOLF LIVES!! Fourth Reich, Fourth Reich, no such thing as third strike…

  25. Jack Cade


    The Vatican wholeheartedly supported Hitler and the Nazis from the outset.

    Phil Prior

    Crikey.com reports, today, that the 2019 coup in Bolivia was instigated and enabled by the USA, and that – as usual – ‘falsehoods’ were used to justify the coup. Moreover, the NYT and the Washington Post were instrumental in pushing the falsehoods.
    Each of those papers has been labelled ‘liberal’ by President Fart. So what is ‘liberal’ in American eyes does not preclude the USA from punishing countries which have the gall to elect governments which do not subscribe to the US definition of ‘Freedom and Democracy’.
    Of course, WE discovered that nearly 45 years ago.

  26. Jack Cade

    The most disturbing things I have seen in many a year are
    1/ a documentary on Netflix called ‘13th’. Absolutely appalling expose of the way the United States released the slaves at the end of the Civil War and then arrested them on nebulous charges and put them into prison farms. So, as the French saying has it, ‘the more things change the more they remain the same’.
    2/ An interview on Youtube titled ‘McNamara’s Morons’, about the poor buggers the US conscripted to fight in Vietnam and the vile things they did to the Vietnamese people when they got there.

  27. guest

    Mark Delmege, you say:

    “of course much of the violence was perpetrated by state cops from the states led by democrats. conflating is all the rage these days and best exemplified by the low brow shameful and dishonest media watch last night…”

    Is what you write in imitation of Trump himself? Sounds very like – except he would most likely have used several capital letters in his tweet.

    “Conflation” – which you say is all the rage – means ‘fusing together especially figuratively of two variant texts or readings into one – leading to error or misunderstanding’. Discussion of the word can be found in Wikipedia. I see you are possibly upset (if you are not being satirical) by your use of of derogatory words “low brow shameful and dishonest” with regard to Media Watch.

    But you do not mention one single example of conflation in your criticism of Media Watch.

    I watched the program again and could not see any example of where different ideas or claims or images were ‘conflated’. I could see what was happening and could hear words from people in the scene who were speaking or a commentator was describing – I could see the child with face covered in milk after being pepper sprayed; I could see and hear the man asking why he was being arrested being told he had not got out of the way, whereas the reporter said the policeman had actually gone past him; or the reporter physically attacked by a policeman; or the reporter fired at with rubber bullets…

    I do not see where your idea of ‘conflation’ comes from, unless a viewer looks through the eyes of Trump and his “fake news”.

  28. Jack Cade

    The point about my earlier post – and reinforced perhaps inadvertently by ‘Guest’ in his last post, is that we would be foolish to see the criticisms of prez’dent Fart by ‘military leaders’ as the US Seventh Cavalry riding over the hill. The US army comprises men too thick to get into any police force, and General Mattie was nicknamed Mad Dog – not for its alliteration.
    Look at the world and tell me when US military intervention brought sweetness and light into any country that enjoyed its presence. I’d sincerely like to know. They even pissed off the Thatcher slag by invading Grenada, a Brit dependency, and even then it took more Yankee troops than than the population of Grenada.
    No doubt they all got a medal for it.

  29. Henry Rodrigues

    How this for conflation. The great orange coloured dickhead, the KGB thug, Bolsonaro, the arshole from the tropics, Scummo the prick from down under, and Modi the fool who licks the orange coloured dickhead’s arse. All in the same room, if and when the G11 takes place. Couldn’t get a more unsavoury gathering of undesirables. No wonder Angela Merkels wants no part of it.

  30. Michael Taylor

    And, Henry, the inclusion of Putin was enough to put Boris off.

  31. Michael Taylor

    mark d, I just had a look at Monday’s Media Watch and I cannot find a single thing that supports your claim.

    Not. A. Single. Thing.

    Why don’t you just admit that you won’t be happy until either Trump or Putin lead Australia?

  32. mark delmege

    Guest June 10, 2020 at 2:23 pm perhaps you mistake me for one of those binary thinkers ie if not democrat then republican. I’m not! but your use of the ad hominem argument suggest you are.
    Media Watch hammered Trump leaving the impression he was responsible for all the violence. I dont recall the host explaining to his audience that the violence was between protesters and state police who often worked for Democrat or Democrat aligned states.
    Michael you are a *&^%.

  33. Jack Cade

    Anyone who considers the Democratic Party to be more Liberal than the Republican Party should note that the so-called ‘Red’ states were solid Democrat for half century. Lynching states. George Wallace was a Democrat.
    Thinking that the US has two parties, one left and one right, is a mistake we all made at one time. But the late Gore Vidal pithily pointed out that US politics comprised one party with two right wings.
    The United States is not and has never been a democracy, and the rantings of the Mafia thug lookalike Pompeo against China’s treatment of HongKong and Uighurs is absolutely risible; the US has more African-Americans in prisons than China has Uighurs in ‘rehabilitation’, and all major US cities have seen bigger riots and authoritarian brutality in recent weeks than the people of HongKong have ever suffered.

  34. Phil

    I love George Galloway’s description of the duopoly called American politics.

    The left and right cheeks of the same arse.

  35. Jack Cade


    I watch Galloway all the time. I share all
    His opinions excepting about religion. Although we have the same kind of background albeit in different UK cities, he has maintained his Christian catholic faith whereas I prefer the truth.
    I assume you’ve seen his appearance before the US senate 10 or 15 years ago? They were hopeful of lynching him but he absolutely trounced the intellectual and moral pigmies. Masterful!!

  36. Terence Mills

    Just in passing. You are probably aware that Alan Jones retired from AM radio a few weeks ago and was given his own program on Sky-after-Dark.

    When it first launched last week he had an audience of 109,000 which for SaD is quite good. But since then it has gradually been sinking with 90,000 on 14 July dropping to 71,000 on 15 July.

    I tuned in and I can see why other people aren’t : his rantings don’t go down too well on pay TV and much of his AM radio audience don’t have pay TV anyhow. His guests don’t help, the other night it was Pauline Hanson who has been barred from most self respecting broadcasters, followed by Peta Credlin………..say no more !

  37. Phil

    Jack Cade.

    I follow George Galloway. I love his MOATS. Mother of all talk shows program. Yes I did watch his Senate appearance. George is probably one of the most gifted speakers on the planet. Did you see his debate with Cristopher Hichens RIP. About Iraq? It was Epic. I think the debate was a draw, Hitchens was a mental giant as well. I think it was probably the drinking and the smoking that was his undoing. I went off Hitchens after his opinions on Iraq. I love Stephen Fry as well.

    Some of the meetings between J. Paxman and George were legendary, he made Paxman look like a fool. People don’t realise well apart from me and you and a few others , George was in the fight against Apartheid and was arrested by the SA plod. I see he has started a new political party in the UK, they are trying to get a party up and running that actually represents the working class. Their Labor Party is the same as ours, Liberal light. And yes I agree with him on everything except religion and Scottish independence.

  38. Phil

    ‘ Just in passing. You are probably aware that Alan Jones retired from AM radio a few weeks ago and was given his own program on Sky-after-Dark.’

    Alan Jones is proof positive that there are laws in this country for poor homosexuals and rich ones. I loath this mouth.

  39. Jack Cade

    People who ‘admire’ Jones should be forced to read Chris Mastets’ JONESTOWN.
    Jones is an ugly, ugly human being. Truly Fugly.
    And most of his followers are pigshit thick. As John Stuart Mill said, in so many words, not all conservatives are stupid people, but all stupid people are conservatives.

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